PARENTS

Tess Daly: 'Claudia And I Screamed When We Heard Steve Backshall Was Going To Be On Strictly'

30/10/2014 14:58 | Updated 20 May 2015

Tess Daly talks to Parentdish about Strictly, schoolmum friendships and Christmas traditions

Tess Daly has devoted her weekends to the world of sequins and shimmies as a host on Strictly Come Dancing - and the sashaying doesn't stop when she returns home as her two daughters, Phoebe, 10, and Amber, five, have caught the dancing bug.

"Amber loves ballet and Phoebe is into street dance and modern dance," Tess tells Parentdish. "They both love to put on a sparkly frock and start twirling around with their dad [TV presenter Vernon Kay] when the show's on tele!

"I've been working on Strictly for 10 years now and they've both been in the womb during filming, so they've been hearing the theme tune since day dot.

"They love coming onto the set to see how their favourites are getting on. They like the girls like Pixie Lott and Frankie in their beautiful dresses.

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And of course they love Steve Backshall, because he's a hero to all children. We had his DVD and books at home before we even met him. When I told the girls he was going to be on the show they were screaming with delight - as were Claudia and I when we heard the news!

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"Our producer asked us what all the fuss was about and we were like: 'You don't understand, this man is a total legend amongst children and their families. He's amazing!'

Tess's oldest daughter Phoebe has just reached the double figures milestone, and Tess says she can't quite believe how fast she is growing up.

"Suddenly I've got this little person who takes a size five shoe, comes up to my shoulder and is growing into a young lady," she says. "She's already trying my shoes on for size!

"Phoebe's quite socially mature and she's always been very independent, whereas her little sister is still a very young five."

Amber is now in her second year at primary school and Tess says she has finally found her feet after a difficult start.

"Amber's enjoying school now but she struggled for the first year," says Tess. "She's a summer baby, so she's quite young in the year and it really does make a difference.

"Phoebe was born in October, so is one of the oldest in her school year and she was ready for anything from day one. But because Amber was only four years old for three quarters of her first school year, it was very different for her.

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She would have much rather stayed at home than go to school, because she wasn't really ready for the whole discipline of the school day - having to change for PE and going to different toilet blocks - it's a lot to take on for a four-year-old.

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"But since she turned five, I've seen a huge difference in her. Now she's ready for everything and she was keen to go back to school after the summer holidays, which was a huge relief, because you want your children to enjoy school.

"She is enjoying herself much more now, although she does still feel the pressure of the weekly spelling test! This week she had to learn to spell the days of the week - which seems pretty tough to me, imagine a five-year-old spelling Wednesday - or even Tuesday for that matter!

"Both the girls get a lot more homework than I did at their ages. When I was young you didn't get proper homework until you were in secondary school. Now they both get about an hour a night - and a lot of it is adult assisted. I feel like I'm a tutor in my spare time."

She may not be a fan of homework, but there is one part of the school day Tess does look forward to - the school run:

"Vernon and I take turns to take the girls to school and pick them up at the end of the day. If I've spent most of the morning packing bags and doing the girls' hair, then he will take them in, if he's around. Otherwise I'll take them in.

"We both really enjoy doing the school run and sometimes we'll both be going: 'I'll pick the girls up.' 'No I'll do it' as we run out the door.

"I've built up a really strong support network with other mums at the school, and I love chatting to them when we pick up the kids. I enjoy hearing other mums talk about how their girls are getting on in the year and how they're getting on with homework.

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I'm really lucky I've made some great school mum friends, they're an invaluable network for me. We support each other with rides home, play dates, pick ups and extra curricular stuff. You've got so much common ground and you're absolutely going through the same things at the same time so you've always got each others' backs.

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Tess's girls are currently enjoying October half term and they've got their mum hard at work coming up with Halloween costume ideas, although she's sad to be missing out on the trick or treating fun this year.

"Halloween falls on a work night for me this year, so I won't be going trick or treating, but Vernon will be taking the girls out for some some spooking - which reminds me I've got to get to work on their costumes!

"The little one has got a brightly coloured witches outfit complete with hat and broom, but Phoebe isn't sure yet what she wants to do, so we'll have to get a move on."

Phoebe may not yet have settled on a costume, but her mind is firmly focused on another upcoming event - Christmas!

"Phoebe has already started leaving lists out for Santa," says Tess. "It's so sweet, I love Christmas, it's my favourite time of the year.

"When I was growing up Christmas was very important for me and my family, we always came together even after I'd left home.

"Wherever I was in the world, my dad always make sure I'd be home. Round about September he'd remind me: 'You are going to be home for Christmas aren't you?' He never made any other demands on me, but at Christmas it was expected that we would be home - and we wanted to be home.

"Now I'm a parent, we have a big old family Christmas. All the family come and stay with us from up north, and we'll do the cooking between us - I make a very good roast spud.

"My trick is to boil them first, then bash them round the colander. Then put them in for an hour in hot oil, to make them crispy."

Tess may be very family orientated but she admits she didn't always see herself becoming a mum:

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I've always loved kids but I never saw myself as a mother until I got pregnant. It wasn't the big plan for me, but I think once you become a mum you just become obsessed with children. I love them.

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"I knew I wanted two kids, as that was what I'd grown up with - one sister, and to be honest I always wanted girls, so I was very lucky.

"Vernon's completely outnumbered, but he doesn't complain too often - he loves it really. Even the dog's a girl! We have got fish too but I've no idea if they're male or female... the hamster might be a boy, I think!"

Tess is currently working with LeapFrog, the educational entertainment brand, for the launch of LeapTV, the first video games system built just for young children.

"I love that LeapTV encourages my children to play together, which isn't always easy as there's four and a half years between them," says Tess. "But actually they play it really well together, and it's also educational and gets them active which is great."

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